What will fashion month look like for the editors who normally travel from city to city?
Not this year. Pandemic-related travel restrictions, safety reasons and the general lack of in-person shows have meant that many are staying put in their home cities. Some of those who are based in New York, London, Paris and Milan plan to attend the few local in-person shows and presentations that are taking place and watch shows in other cities virtually. Others will watch all the spring 2021 collections from their computers.
Among the latter is Vogue Mexico editor in chief Karla Martinez, a regular fashion month attendee, who usually hosts events promoting designers from Latin America in the key fashion cities. Instead, she’ll be skipping NYFW, which kicks off Sunday with Jason Wu, and will be watching that and all other fashion weeks from Mexico City, where she has been based for the past few years.
“We will be working with our Vogue editors in each market and our freelance contributors based in Milan, Paris and NYC to cover market,” she told WWD. “It feels very strange that I am not traveling, seeing friends, editors and going to NYC for fashion week. I think the virtual show doesn’t replace the live fashion show so we will see how we will work this season.”
As for American Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour and her team, as well as fashion editors from other Condé Nast U.S. titles such as Vanity Fair and GQ, they, too, won’t be traveling to Europe this month. Like Vogue Mexico, they’ll rely on local teams to provide assets and the brands will each cover in their own ways. Since they’re based in New York, many will be in attendance at NYFW, but it’s not known if Wintour, who is also Condé’s artistic director, will be present.
In terms of skipping Europe, it’s the same story for WSJ. Magazine, the monthly fashion and luxury-focused insert for the weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal, and Hearst Magazines, which owns Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, Elle and Cosmopolitan. Most editors are understood to be planning on attending NYFW.
Hearst’s U.K. arm is also under orders to stay put. Avril Mair, fashion director of British editions of Elle and Harper’s Bazaar, said that although she loves visiting New York for the shows, she’s going to watch from her desk in London this season. “Similarly, we’re not traveling to Milan nor Paris,” she continued. “I will be doing safe, socially distanced one-to-one appointments with London designers, as our support is so critical and it’s feasibly a lot easier to coordinate.”
Editors at the U.S. edition of InStyle, who were called back to New York early from Paris Fashion Week in February by publisher Meredith Corp. as the coronavirus spread throughout Europe, are adopting an even more cautious stance. Not only will they not be heading back to Milan this month, they also won’t be attending any in-person NYFW events. That includes editor in chief Laura Brown. Instead, its digital team will cover NYFW remotely.
Also absent from all in-person events will be Marques Harper, image editor at the Los Angeles Times. In addition to Europe, he won’t be traveling cross-country to New York this weekend for the start of the shorter-than-usual NYFW, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo requiring travelers from California to quarantine for two weeks.
“This season, we are skipping our in-person coverage of fashion month shows due to ongoing safety concerns and travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “Therefore, we will experience these fashion shows in New York and Europe virtually along with the rest of the world. Overall, we remain committed to our coverage of these shows because L.A. is an important fashion and shopping market, and will return to covering them in the future.”
The New York Times’ fashion director and chief fashion critic Vanessa Friedman, meanwhile, won’t be flying to Europe, but is planning on attending events in New York, including Christian Siriano’s show, although she’ll miss Jason Wu on Sunday due to a family commitment.
Friedman was “very torn” about traveling to Europe (even though, had she gone, she would have had to quarantine for two weeks in Milan or Paris, given EU regulations), but in the end decided it was wiser (and certainly cheaper for the Times) to cover it digitally. The team may decide to send The Times’ U.K.-based fashion correspondent to cover the end of Paris. If not, The Times won’t use freelancers and will instead cover everything digitally.
As for virtual coverage, in addition to the usual reviews, The Times will livestream shows in partnership with the CFDA, Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana and Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode and host a series of virtual events and social media takeovers.
For reviews, Friedman believes it’s harder to do it virtually. “You’re dependent on the camera that’s filming the show and they do cutaways, they do closeups depending on their own aesthetic choices and sometimes it’s like, ‘wait I want to see that seam more closely or I wish I could get a sense of that fabric. I can’t really see it.’ But we adapt and hopefully we won’t get used to this, but we will learn how to read it in a different way,” she said. “There is nothing that can replace the in-person interactions that the shows provide.”
Kathy Lee, The Zoe Report’s new editorial director, said the fashion site, too, will feature reviews as always, but there will also be big focus this year on in-depth features with new and first-time presenters, how brands strategized their digital debut, and reads on how the usual front-row attendees will be dressing and viewing the collections, “all at the comfort, and glamour, of their own home.”
On what to expect from the collections, Tiffany Reid, vice president of fashion at Bustle Digital Group’s lifestyle arm that includes The Zoe Report, said: “Historically, fashion has given us a glimpse of what the future holds, and this year, designers have the platform to reimagine what that looks like. The pandemic has shown us that we don’t need as much as we thought we did and can be less wasteful, and I think that will be reflected in the collections.”